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Wedding Filmmaking / July 22, 2022

How to Start as a Wedding Videographer in the United States: The First Steps


This article is based on the story of Cody, the videographer’s journey from zero to hero in the wedding filmmaking industry.

I always wanted to shoot. At some point, I saved up the money I needed to buy a camera, and I didn’t give up on fulfilling my dream. It was harder in the beginning than I thought it would be, but then working with brides and grooms really became my favorite thing.

I loved coming in before everyone else, seeing the gathering go by, inhaling the smell of wedding flowers, and catching the beautiful moments of the day going by.

How I Started

First of all, I had to prepare the equipment, find clients to build my portfolio and learn how to do editing. All the tasks turned out to be quite manageable.

Choosing a Camera

One of the Panasonic models (Lumix GH-5) solved several problems at once. After reading the reviews, I made the decision to buy this camera for a few reasons: it’s fairly inexpensive, has great built-in video stabilization, and produces good cinematic results. This camera looked great and gave me professionalism in the eyes of others 🙂

How Did I Shoot Weddings?

I had to buy an extra camera light, tripod, charger, microphone, and bag.

You can buy a camera used from an experienced operator. There are a lot of ads like that on Amazon. Furthermore, the posted videos of a professional videographer will assist in navigating the quality of the chosen model.

Looking For Clients

This task was very simple. I talked to friends and acquaintances. And soon I received several calls from couples. Some of them were in another cities of my state. But I couldn’t afford to go there at my own expense. So I’ve just served in my city area. I offered tempting conditions. I shot either for free or for a nominal fee. In contrast, I did a lot of work. I would come early in the morning and leave when all the guests were tired. Such dedication could not help but attract brides and grooms. In the first two months, I shot three weddings.

There is another simple way: looking for brides on social networks. They often write comments on various wedding topics. Ask in person if they would like an extra view of their fabulous day.

How to Start Shooting Weddings

Such offers are rarely turned down. After all, beginners either charge no money at all, or are very inexpensive, or only ask for a fee if the work comes out well.

Of course, the bride and groom should not risk their wedding and be the first guinea pigs. Offer them a job option that suits everyone. For example, being the second cameraman at the wedding.

The Wedding Video Editing Process

This part of the job was very hard for me. I was unfamiliar with the terminology in the software. Soon I negotiated with a professional videographer, and he happily agreed to show me the basics of editing for a small fee. Things were moving forward. But editing the long parts of the wedding video was so hard for my computer that it soon broke down. I had to put the editing work on hold for a while. But this experience became quite valuable for me: the computer was replaced by a more powerful one, and the editing agreements began to include the possibility of various breakdowns. In the future, I have decided to outsource wedding video editing to an agency. This saved me a lot of time and energy that was redirected to shooting new weddings and finding and communicating with potential clients and partners (various wedding planners, decorators, etc.).

Shooting The First Wedding

Clients are found, equipment is prepared. The first day of work as a videographer is ahead.

Looking Good

This is part of the professional attitude. People working at a wedding should fit in with what’s going on. The great examples are the photographers and videographers at film festivals. It’s easy for a videographer to get caught up in the photos. Therefore, clothing should be discreet and the whole look should be formal. A separate story is about shoes. They should be comfortable because you will have to stand on your feet for ten hours. Moreover, it is good if you can quickly change your shoes.

How To Behave Correctly

A wedding usually begins with the bride’s gathering, and if the bride gets dressed at home, you can get into an unreal whirlpool of worry, fuss, and preparation. At first, it’s even embarrassing to walk into such a “holy of holies”. But very quickly, the excitement recedes. You should act calmly and confidently. Everyone is waiting for the videotaping. Say hello, perhaps introduce yourself to your parents, and locate the bride. And hurry to shoot: the most valuable and beautiful shots of the gathering are always in the morning.

Top Challenges

How to get good footage for editing.

  • Nothing should distract from the main task. You can’t explain to the client that the ring exchange wasn’t filmed just because the bride’s grandmother was standing in front of the camera.
  • You need to shoot as many details as possible. If it seems like nothing is happening, you still need to watch the newlyweds. Their cute smiles, conversations, and excitement can end up being great footage to process. The guests are also important. Some are wiping away tears, rejoicing for the young couple. Some are supporting the groom’s mother. Such footage will make future editing easier and delight customers.
  • Beautiful moments are important! A fallen flower, nature on this day, a passerby admiring the beauty of the couple. These are all great interlude shots, screensavers, etc.
  • You’ll have to “fight” a little to get a good seat at the ceremonies, for example. The front row should always be behind the cameraman. Ask the guests to stand back (it is better to have an assistant supervise this) and the employees to ask for help. These issues are especially relevant for filming at the reception. To film the honeymooners’ dance or toast, you need space all around the room. Waiters and receptionists can move some flowers or move a table in time.

An assistant, how to find one for free, and why you need one.

  • An assistant will make your job much more pleasant. He or she can lug around a bag of equipment that could come in handy at any minute. Bringing information to the newlyweds while the cameraman is shooting (how to stand up, fix your hair, look into the camera, etc.).
  • You can’t do it without help. Often, you have to ask the guests. Something to hold, to bring, and the guests, in turn, are not always happy about it.
  • Finding a free assistant is easy. It can be any student, any budding photographer or videographer, or just someone who wants to work for a nominal amount of money. Even a high school student can be taken as an assistant. He does not need special skills.
  • Notify the wedding planner that there will be two of you. Then the issue will be resolved with a place in the car and lunch at the restaurant at the staff table.

My Wedding Videography Experience

I have managed to shoot about 170 weddings so far. Over the course of my work, I’ve been able to figure out some rules to make filming easier.

Useful Tips

Look for a partner. Shooting a wedding on 2-3 cameras is the most convenient and reasonable decision. One plan is not enough for a quality shoot. In addition, you can find a lot more bookings together.

A camera on a tripod mounted in front of the table of the newlyweds can not turn off. This way, the cameraman can take a five-minute break with a clear conscience.

Even if you have not formalized your business yet and are not an LLC, make a contract. In my experience, I have never met a dishonest customer, and most often, the signed papers are quite enough to settle a misunderstanding.

A well-drafted contract includes a clear statement about the hours of shooting. It is necessary to include a clause about the method of payment (in installments or non-cash form), as well as the moment when payment is made). The amount of footage that the videographer agrees to process.

An extra light on the camera is a great way to improve the quality of the shot. If there are no problems with the camera, the assistant can manually control the light to improve the composition of the picture.

Replacement charging blocks. They cost money, too. If there are only two, you need to be reassured: bring a charger and put the first unit in the socket while the second is working (useful in the evening when shooting in a restaurant).

It is better to process all the material first, and only at the end, start slicing a beautiful clip. The time for editing in this case will be much less.

How Not to Treat Shooting Videos

Often, novice videographers expect to get the most out of their work. In addition, it is worth noting that the first weddings always bring little money, so all the emphasis goes on the result (for the portfolio).

And the bride and groom, first and foremost, want to enjoy what is happening. They are not models, but real people. Do not forget that the work on camera is also a work. And if professional artists are used to such work, then for the newlyweds it is a difficult challenge.

Try to treat them with respect and understanding. It’s very easy to ruin everyone’s mood, and in that case, you won’t get a good recommendation from your videographer.

How can you make more money on video shooting or get regular orders?

First, work with full dedication. Write a script for the wedding of the newlyweds and take with you some bright props that are suitable for good shots. Even a powder puff with a mirror will come in handy-most often the bride doesn’t have the essentials at hand.

I prepared thoroughly for my first shoot. Not only did we discuss with the newlyweds the ideas for the shoot, but I myself sometimes brought various accessories for the shoot and prepared thermoses of tea, etc.

Feeling comfortable on the day is also important. No one wants to spend their wedding day with a grouchy operator.

Word of mouth will definitely play into your hands with this approach.

Second, find a regular partners who can promote you. Many bloggers hire a photographer or videographer. Today, with the development of social media opportunities for shooting a lot. You can shoot them on good terms. Models, actresses, and bloggers shoot something interesting all the time.

Third, offer your services. Negotiate partnerships with companies in the wedding industry. You can advise each other on your clients. Think also about where brides and grooms go: bridal stores, florists, beauty salons. Come in and arrange for mutual recommendations. I often paired up with photographers. We were constantly helping each other during our shoots, and often advising prospective clients to see our work.

It’s great to find a business that is both morally and financially rewarding. Such work is an inexhaustible source of energy, joy, and drive, while dedication and a constant search for new effective and creative ideas help your own all-round development.

To start shooting weddings for a decent fee, you need to go a long way and spend a lot of money. But the payoff, both moral and financial, is really strong. The pleasure of the finished work, the satisfaction of seeing the joy of the newlyweds, the beautiful memories—that’s the least that such an experience can give.

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